1

Let’s Build a Zoo!

I can’t quite believe I have now been travelling around Australia in a little van for nearly a whole year! We have travelled the length of the East Coast and have made some unforgettable memories! But as you can see, I haven’t exactly been neck deep in environmental education. Teaching it that is, as I can safely say I have learnt a great deal on my journey from zoos, trips and lots of fascinating people.

This is why I decided to dedicate the last 4 months of our first year in Australia to continue in teaching and trying to be a part of the animal education industry. After lots of enquiring, emailing applying and not much luck, I got my first job in Australia! I was now a kids club attendant at Sea World Resort, Gold Coast. No it wasn’t actually teaching environmental education, but it was a foot in the door in a huge tourism company with 2 different animal parks (Sea World and Paradise Country), so I was a really happy bunny!

As the job was casual, I searched for a day job with a guaranteed income. I replied to an add looking for a home school teacher 3 days a week (perfect!) and this is where I met the wonderful Milly and her family. Milly is 11 and wasn’t getting on too well in school, so mum wanted someone to go back over year 5 with her, focusing the work on her specific interests and needs. Much to my delight, Milly loves animals, so this is where the topic ‘Let’s Build a Zoo!’ was born! I worked really hard in planning a topic where Zoos and animal education were involved in as many usual school subjects as possible, linking closely to the year 5 Australian Curriculum. (http://www.acara.edu.au/verve/_resources/Content_for_Year_5_-_Learning_area_content_descriptions.pdf)
I was really proud of the outcome, Milly did some fantastic work and we both really enjoyed the topic. Therefore I thought I would share it with you all on here in case anyone would like to use this topic, or any of the individual lessons in their teaching!

Literacy
In literacy we firstly looked at the non-fiction topic of information texts. Milly’s overall task was to create a sign for an animal enclosure in her zoo.
To become familiar with information texts we looked at many animal fact books, aimed at different audiences, to look at common features. We then looked in more detail at how to use these features in the text. E.g. Captions, titles, sub headings, bullet points etc. To help Milly picture what an animal enclosure sign in particular might need to include, we took a trip to Sea World to have a look! Milly took pictures of the enclosure signs she liked and pointed out all the text features we had been studying.
Back in the classroom Milly chose her animal to create a sign about, stingrays, and then carried out lots of research, both in books and online. After creating a plan together she independently created her information sign. This was the finished result, I know I’d like to see that hanging up in a zoo!!
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The second literacy text was persuasive writing. Again we looked at all the features of a persuasive writing text, and learnt them in detail. Together we planned and practiced writing a persuasive writing piece. Her independent work for this text study was to write a piece either for or against zoos, she chose to write for zoos (phew!). Together we researched many arguments as to why a zoo is good and important. Milly was then able to independently plan and write an effective piece of persuasive writing.

Maths
There were so many year 5 study areas that we were able to cover in a zoo topic! First of all we looked at graphs, this would link to our scientific study (see science).
Secondly we studied area and perimeter. By doing this we were able to map out the size of our zoo, the size of the different animal enclosures, and then how to best fit those enclosures into our zoo.
Lastly, and Milly’s personal favourite study, was money. We looked at the financial costs of running a zoo. We worked out how many enclosures, staff and facilities our zoo could have with a given budget. We decided on pricings for entry, gifts and food based on our visit to Sea World and finally how many people would need to visit the zoo a day to be able to make a profit.

Science
When I first arrived, Milly had just gotten a new kitten, so I spotted a brilliant investigation opportunity. We planned a scientific investigation to measure the  kittens growth and then measured his weight and length for the next 8 weeks (the kitten was often not best pleased with our project!). We then plotted our results on a graph and concluded what we had discovered. We then also discussed how this could inform us when raising cubs of big cats in our zoo.
During this time we also looked at animal adaptations. As well as discussing different adaptations we also carried out experiments to help Milly physically see the benefit of the adaptation. My favourite being; 1.putting your hand in oil in an ice bucket to demonstrate the effectiveness of blubber. 2. making giraffe spit out of corn starch and water, to demonstrate how they are able to eat leaves off of spiky trees! We also touched on evolution and natural selection, but this is an incredibly hard topic for adults to grasp, let alone 11 year olds!

Art
Again this study was inspired by our trip to Sea World. Milly was fascinated by the little penguins, so we decided to design an enclosure! Milly researched, in great detail, what little penguins need to survive, and what other little penguin enclosures look like. I then helped her with a design and she got making. I could not have been more pleased with the outcome! We even got the approval of some little penguin zookeepers!!
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Geography
After a reminder on what a continent is and where places are on a world map, we researched using books, the internet, and documentaries, animals from Europe and North America (these are the two continents recommended for study in the curriculum). Milly then made a lovely fact file about the animals she had learnt about.

Milly then noticed that a threat common to a lot of these animals was direct or indirect poisoning. Therefore, using her information and persuasive text knowledge, made a poster to inform people about the dangers of animal poisoning.
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I really have loved my time teaching Milly, and I am proud of how successful this topic has been. She has really enjoyed it and has come on in leaps and bounds. Obviously this was just a snapshot of the work, so if you would like any more detail or copies of planning please feel free to ask! As always please feel free to share to anyone you think may find this useful.

Our following topic was dinosaurs (also super fun!) so to finish, here is a picture of us on my last day, sporting some pretty scary masks!!
Speak soon, lots of love 🙂 x
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2

Tall Tails

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You may have recently seen that the natural history channel, Eden, have released a competition for amateur wildlife enthusiasts like myself to upload a minute long natural history film of their own. Obviously an opportunity far too good to miss!

So after a bit of brain racking I managed to rope in my little sister, who has her own vlog (she’s a clever and entertaining little bean, search ‘kelseydoes’ on YouTube), and the lemur keeper to help me out. So after work one day we filmed with some very mischievous lemurs and this is what we cam up with…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gv_qzA1_wKM

If you would like to have a gander please let me know what you think! All feedback would be fantastic; good and bad! Of course, if your friend happens to work in the natural history television industry… feel free to pass it on!

In other news, it was my last day working at the zoo today 😦

I have had an absolutely fantastic summer, learnt so much, been given some fantastic opportunities and will of course miss seeing beautiful animals every single day!

My next adventure is my 4th and final teaching placement. I start Monday and will be at the new school, with year 1, until Christmas. I am very much hoping to use lots of outdoor education lessons during this placement and, if allowed, run a conservation club for year 5 and 6.

Therefore at the end of each week I will post any outdoor or environmentally based lessons I teach, letting you know how they went…whether it be great or terrible!

Wish me luck 🙂

3

Always meet your Idols…

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This week I had the honour of meeting arguably the most influential man in the natural history industry, Sir David Attenborough!

Sir David was visiting Paignton Zoo to film our Bornean Orang-utan Mali and her baby Tatau for a new documentary about tool using animals. The zoo was chosen for it’s natural like enclosure that our animals our kept in; a very rewarding moment for the keepers!

After his day of filming staff were invited to come and meet him! It was incredible to see so many members of staff, of all different ages, all inspired by the same man. I think it is safe to say that there is no other person who has inspired so many different generations of animal lovers.

We were taken in our departments to have our photo taken and any memorabilia signed. It must have been a long day for anyone, let alone if you are 88 years old! Yet Sir David seemed genuinely happy to sit and chat to us all signing countless amounts of books and dvds. He was in his classic linen suit light blue shirt looking very well and sounding just as serene as when on our screens.

It’s safe to say that I became rather emotional and have been teased about this ever since! But hey ho, it’s not everyday you meet your hero and I cry at a good episode of Dancing on Ice!

So who ever said never meet your idols need to meet Sir David Attenborough! A day I will never forget and will always treasure.

Just Steve Backshall and Bill Bailey to go…

1

Busy as a Bee!

The last few weeks have been chock-a-block! Full of bug eating, big bangs and bottom wiggling!

I have been incredibly busy with work over the past few weeks but during that time I have been involved in some very exciting educational activities. Firstly, back in July, was the South West Big Bang Fair, held at Exeter University. This event is all about getting children into science! Children from lots of different secondary schools had brought along their science projects to be judged, and some of the ideas were just genius; from particle physics to sustainable building. The rest of the hall was full of scientific organisations with activities aiming to get children into science.
This is where we came in; myself, a presenter from living coasts and 4 Zoo interns went along to show children the wide range of fascinating Zoo careers they could become involved in. Our activities were mainly vet related and included ‘Guess the animal X-ray’, learning how to resuscitate a dog, and practicing cheetah darting skills. We also had lots of animal artefacts to look at and a really interesting sustainable fishing game. We were really pleased with how popular our activities were. By the end of the day we had spoken to around 400 students and all our career booklets had gone! Hopefully we inspired some future keepers, vets, teachers and researchers!

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Next up was the Exeter Summer Dine event. This was a marketing event and involved local attractions and restaurants visiting Exeter town centre to advertise their business, but of course our stall had an environmental twist!
This twist was our bug eating challenge. On the menu for brave shoppers that day were meal worms, crickets and locus! The reason behind this grim sounding challenge is a serious environmental message. As Earth’s population continues to grow, agricultural land continues to expand, destroying habitats as it does so and soon enough we are going to run out of room. Therefore we need to find a sustainable food source that can feed this massive population without causing more damage to our environment. Insects like these really seem to fit that bill; plus they have no calories and are full of protein! 80% of the worlds population already eat insects on a regular basis, only us Europeans are grossed out by the concept. Therefore my aim was to help people get over the fear of eating an insect. My personal favourite is the locus. 😛
Overall the day went very well. Lots of people were really interested and brave, especially young children. However on this occasion I was absolutely shocked at the rudeness of some members of the general public; no thank you is a perfectly suitable answer. The bug eating challenge will always be one of my favourite activities, every reaction is different!

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Finally, over the last few weeks I have been teaching!!! 😀
One of the Zoos education officers sadly left us recently meaning that until the position was filled, formal Zoo teaching sessions would need to be covered. I was so flattered when I was asked to do some of them!
Even though I have taught lessons all day on placement, my first session for the zoo was particularly nerve racking. I think this is because this was my chance; my chance to show I can teach! I read through the session plan over and over and before I new it the children were there ready. The lesson went really well and I loved every single minute of it and was buzzing for the rest of the day!
I have now taught lessons to children from year 1-6 about tropical rainforests, animals around the world, baby animals and will be teaching about African animals next week. My favourite part of any session so far is when talking about peacocks. I get the boys to all stand up holding peacock feathers and to do their best peacock bottom wiggle dance to the girls! The girls are never very impressed but it always gets them giggling. 🙂
These few sessions have been such a fantastic opportunity for me. Firstly they confirmed that this really is what I want to do and I will continue working hard to get there. Secondly I have been given positive for my lessons so far by the class teachers; which means my hard work has not been for nothing, I can do this!

I will be sad when I teach my last session next week. But the last few weeks have definitely continued to motivate me to keep working hard, keep trying to improve what I do, and things might just fall into place!

3

Wild Futures

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After my latest post describing Monkey World and it’s educational work I was contacted by Paul Reynolds, the Education Officer and Keeper at Wild Futures Monkey Sanctuary in Cornwall. He wrote to me to ask if I would like to visit the Monkey Sanctuary and meet him to learn about the Monkey Sanctuary and the education programme that he runs. Of course I jumped at this chance!

I learnt so much about the Wild Futures charity and it is amazing what such a seemingly small charity can do. The truth is Wild Futures is not a small charity at all, they have huge influence in the primate conservation world. Firstly, what many people may not realise is that Wild Futures was created before Monkey World and both helped and advised Monkey World in the creation of their enclosures. They have also been a leading the way in Woolly Monkey husbandry, and were the first ever captive establishment to successfully breed them. (Due to being a sanctuary, Wild Future no longer breed their Woolly Monkeys)

At the moment Wild Futures are concentrating their influences onto parliament and the current exotic pet laws. Their campaign ‘Justice for Joey’ calls for the Government to make it illegal for primates to be sold and kept as pets in the UK. The campaign is based on the story of Joey the Capuchin monkey; who was kept by his owner in a tiny inside cage, causing him to become disabled. This is such a worthwhile campaign, as unfortunately Joey’s story happens far too often! Wild Futures influence and the campaigns importance is demonstrated perfectly in the fact that Stephen Fry has jumped on board and has appeared in the campaigns promotional video.
Here is a link for the Justice for Joey campaign:
http://www.wildfutures.org/justiceforjoey/

Education at Wild Futures comes in many different forms. The facilities at the Monkey Sanctuary are clearly old and could do with a re vamp but these things need money and being a charity the money first and foremost goes on the animals. Importantly thought, the content in the educational areas is fantastic! There is a room for younger children full of really exciting activities; from colouring to writing primate poems! It is a fantastic space for children to learn to love primates!

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There is also a very informative ‘lecture’ type room which includes videos, props and signs showing exactly why it is so cruel to keep a primate as a pet, and how Wild Futures rehabilitates these monkeys successfully. Even though shock tactic is used in this room it is really effective and detailed. I learnt so much, for instance I did not know that some vets recommend putting monkeys on leads! This room also shows the vast amount of conservation that Wild Futures are involved in and contribute to.

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On top of this there is a bat watching station, a room all about discovering local wild life and a fantastic display discussing the dangers of animal encounters when abroad.

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What I think is most impressive about the education is the person who is running it! It is clear that Paul really cares about encouraging children to see the dangers of the pet trade and actually, to just share his love of primates. He is a great force in this sanctuary, filling the site with brilliant ideas and info and connecting the sanctuary to lots of different primate charities. Being the only education officer at Wild Futures Paul is able to become involved in all sorts of events and school visits; leaving himself and Wild Futures with lots of fingers in lots of pies!

Finally the cute bit! The animals! The Monkey Sanctuary has rescued Woolly Monkeys, Capuchins and Barbary Macaques. I was lucky enough to see the big but beautiful woollys eat their morning monkey cake!

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Saw the famous and wonderful Joey. Fell in love with this big boy.

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And saw yet another species of marvelous macaques! Macaques are still, with out any question of a doubt my favourite primate species. Like the Sulawesis and the Stump tails the faces of the Barbarys were full of emotion and intelligence! One thing I was not expecting though was the size of these macaques! I don’t know whether all their fluff makes their size misleading but they were big old boys.

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Although this maybe wouldn’t be the ideal family day out for some people; as some may want to see more than 3 species of monkey and maybe not want to climb that many hills. I hope people bare in mind the fantastic work that is going on here and take the opportunity to educate themselves and children about primates and their welfare, by having a read of the signs, or a listen to the many volunteers that are more than happy to chat.

To Paul and Wild Futures, thank you for a fascinating day! My Justice for Joey letter will be off to my local MP very soon!

5

Monkeying Around!

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Last Monday I was able to do something I’d been desperate to do for a very long time…visit Monkey World! Excited as a child in a sweet shop doesn’t quite cover it!

Due to being zoo staff we were kindly given a tour around the park by Rebecca, one of the education officers. Firstly she spoke to us about the animals and the work which Monkey World carry out. I cannot state how important this work is, Monkey World save so many apes, monkeys and prosimians from lives spent in terrible conditions. Next we spoke about the work of Monkey World in schools and general education. As a lot of the animals at Monkey World were rescued from the pet trade it is not surprising that this is the main subject of their teaching. Even though I usually say that children do not need to be bombarded with negatives as long as a love of nature is provided; the way that Monkey World teach about the horrors of the pet trade sounds like a very touching and moving experience. Children are shown cages that are about the size of which a monkey is usually kept in in a lab. The children are asked to climb into the cage and explain how they’d feel if they had to live in it. Empathy is a powerful tool in this exercise and allows the children to see the monkeys as animals with personality and feelings like themselves, rather than just inanimate objects. This activity could be powerful in changing children’s attitudes to all animals and I was reassured that there are more fun and light hearted games used with younger children! I would love to see one of these lessons taught and can only imagine what a special day it is for children to get a visit from Monkey World!

After the tour we spent hours wandering around the park, which was a lot larger than I ever imagined it could be! The range of primates was fantastic and the enclosures so beautifully designed. I saw chimps for the first time and really enjoyed watching their intelligent minds figure out the best way to eat their ice lollies!

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We met some incredibly friendly gibbons who insisted on coming to say hello! I will always say that the sound of a gibbon is the most beautiful noise in the world!

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The baby orang-utans were beautiful, joyful, funny and so intriguing! We were lucky enough to stare into their beautiful eyes when one of them seemed to take a particular liking to my friend Holly’s bag!

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Saved the best till last! The stump tailed macaques! I’ve already announced my love for macaques and this lot are just so ugly that they’re adorable.

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I had an absolutely fantastic day at Monkey World, in fact I really did not want to leave! My only bug bare is that it is called monkey world, not primate world…but that’s just a silly pet hate!

A wonderful day out for an even more wonderful cause. 🙂

3

How does environmental enrichment effect a Sulawesi crested black macaque?

ImageThe most beautiful, charismatic and interesting animals on our planet? I certainly think so! Over the last few years I have become utterly fascinated by Sulawesi crested black macaques. One of the things I love discussing the most with the public when at work is the work of Selamatkan Yaki, a charity run by Paignton Zoo out in Sulawesi, educating local children about the plight of their local wildlife. This is because unfortunately Sulawesi macaques are critically endangered in the wild and their population has dropped by 40% in the last 80 years!

During this 3rd year of university, as a science specialist, we were asked to write a scientific research report on any topic of our choice. Therefore I decided to carry out a behavioural observation of the Zoo’s Sulawesi macaques. The study aimed to look at the effect of active environmental enrichment on the behaviour on a dominant male, dominant female and a juvenile (2 year old) Sulawesi macaque. Active environmental enrichment being the objects that keepers put into the animals enclosure with the aim of stimulating the animal in the hope to reduce stereotypical behaviour, increase foraging and feeding times, allowing wild like behaviour and just giving the animal a more enjoyable and fulfilled captive life.

The different forms of enrichment included:

  1. Food enrichment
  2. Sensory enrichment
  3. Manipulative enrichment

instantaneous focal animal sampling was used. The macaques were observed for 9 weeks on a Wednesday afternoon, between the times of 1300 and 1430, with a sample interval of 5 minutes.

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It was found that overall food enrichment was the most effective in achieving the aims previously mentioned above, but it is also clear that all enrichments did have an active positive role in the macaques behaviour. These mean activity budgets also show similar results to that of a previous captive activity budget (Melfi and Feistner 2002) and their wild activity budget (O’Brien and Kinnaird 1997). It is possible to explain the behaviour seen both as a result of the enrichment; for instance the macaques responded better to responsive enrichment and enrichment that gave them control over their environment, and in terms of unavoidable variables such as the weather and a females oestrogen cycle.

The results also informed me that the enrichment given to the macaques is done in a pro-active way. Meaning that enrichment is not used as a band aid to fix problems, instead it is clearly to provide the animals with the highest standard of living, giving them an enjoyable and stimulating captive lifestyle.

Even though the time scale and the small sample size of this research deemed it statistically invalid, the mean activity budgets still showed some interesting results. It would be great to repeat this study with a much larger time frame and sample size to see how the results differed.

As stressful as a dissertation can be, I highly enjoyed my time studying the macaques. I just wish I had the resources and time scale to be able to carry out a scientifically valid study. However I now feel I have a far more in depth understanding of my most loved creatures. I hope I can continue to use this love for and knowledge about these animals for years to come, to help their plight in whatever way I can!

If you would like a copy of my report, or a more detailed discussion of the results, just ask and I can send a copy 🙂

Also for more information on the Sulawesi crested black macaques, here are a few great links!

http://selamatkanyaki.com/yaki-2/
http://www.wwct.org.uk/conservation-research/sulawesi/macaques
http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/12556/0